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March 31, 2009

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If your job requires you to work in teams, you're eventually going to face conflict with coworkers. There's nothing wrong with the difference of opinion- good businesses thrive when creative employees come up with unique ideas. But sometimes problems occur when people don't communicate effectively, or are unwilling to compromise. When conflicts arise among coworkers , things get emotional, and more often than not, productivity heads down the toilet. Whether it's an isolated incident or an ongoing problem, we've got some helpful advice to help you avert explosive situations and diplomatically deal with conflicts on the job.

An isolated incident
Typical scenario: During a team meeting, one person keeps questioning your logic, finding flaws with your arguments, or shooting down your suggestions. Instead of blowing up or (just as detrimental) clamming up, consider the following tips:

1. Though it's natural to get defensive in the face of criticism, make the effort to separate yourself from your ideas. Listen to what your critic has to say and determine whether their criticisms are valid. 2. Make sure you understand exactly what they take issue with so that you can explain your point of view.3. Be diplomatic - find something about your critic's argument that you agree with, and move the conversation from that point.4. Ask others in the meeting to offer suggestions - but be careful of suggesting people take sides.5. If all else fails, offer to set the subject aside and address it later or in a separate meeting. You might even offer to meet with your critic individually to find a compromise.

Remember, jut because your idea does not get chosen, it doesn't mean you're getting the shaft - your goal at work should be to do what's best for the business.

~An ongoing problem
Do you have a coworker you just don't get along with? Alternately, there may be someone who seems to be friendly with everyone but you. While you shouldn't make it a goal to be pals with all your coworkers, an ongoing personal conflict can grow into a major problem if left unchecked. If you feel that a conflict with a coworker is or has the potential to affect your work, nip it in the bud:

1. If you think you know what the issue is, ask to meet privately with your coworker. Without being confrontational, try to address the issue directly.

2. Try to address the person without being intimidating or intimidated.

3. If what you have to say is critical of your coworker, be as diplomatic as possible, but be prepared for him to get defensive, and/or emotional. If you are uncomfortable going directly to your coworker, try speaking to an understanding manager or someone in HR and ask them to mediate.

4. If your coworker thinks you're the one with the problem, try to be open-minded. Listen to his point of view before defending yourself.

5. Though you may be unable to identify with your coworker's view of the situation, be considerate, and search for a compromise. For example, if he takes real offense when you use profanity in the office, agree to stop doing it when he's nearby. If you can't come to an agreement, agree to disagree.

6. Though you may end up in an emotionally charged situation, try your best to stay calm, and remember to treat your coworker with respect.

It is possible to work effectively with people you don't like. Place your focus on the work at hand. If you find yourself constantly at odds with one person, do your best to limit your interactions. If you have to work with an abusive person (e.g., a screamer, or a person who constantly denigrates you in private or in front of others) set a limit on how much you will accept. Try to resolve the problem diplomatically, but if it doesn't work, take the issue to a manager.

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Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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